Connor Brown murder: Parents of popular teenager stabbed to death in Sunderland city centre pay emotional tribute to 'one in a million' son
The devastated family of Connor Brown say they "would have crumbled" without the support they have received since the much-loved teenager was stabbed to death on a night out in Sunderland city centre.
The 18-year-old died after being found with stab wounds behind The Borough pub, off Vine Place, in the early hours of Sunday, February 24.
Wearside was left stunned by the death of the likeable Farringdon lad, described by his parents as "one in a million" and "the most wonderful young man."
In an emotional tribute, they spoke lovingly of Connor as somebody who "always had a real work ethic", recalling how he went from delivering the Sunderland Echo as a young paper boy to becoming a friendly and popular receptionist at a GP surgery.
Floral tributes were left near to where he died and also outside of the Happy House Surgery, in Durham Road, where the passionate Sunderland AFC fan worked.
Balloon releases have taken place in his memory while applause broke out in the 18th minute of the Black Cats' game against Plymouth Argyle at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as a mark of respect.
A fund set up by a family friend to support Connor’s loved ones has also raised over £27,000, including a £2,500 donation from former Sunderland star and Liverpool and England ace Jordan Henderson.
WATCH: Sunderland AFC fans pay respects to Connor Brown with applause in 18th minute of game against Plymouth ArgyleConnor's parents say they have been “overwhelmed” by the community’s kindness in the aftermath of his death and have paid tribute to their beloved son who "had a smile that could light up a room."
In a family statement, they said: "Without the kindness shown by people, we would have crumbled.
"The community have really kept us going. We’ve received letters and cards from all over the country, even from people we don’t know, who have expressed their sorrow and passed on their nice words. We can’t thank everyone enough.
"Connor’s death has touched the hearts of so many people, and Sunderland has really come together over the last couple of weeks. It’s reminded us of the kindness of people – the North-East does have a heart.
WATCH: Clubbers hold minute's silence in memory of Connor Brown"It’s been overwhelming – everything from being inside the stadium to the balloon release and the minute’s silence in Illusions nightclub last weekend. Connor won’t have believed it – he’ll be laughing and smiling, as he always did.
"We’d just like to thank everybody – his friends, the community, Sunderland Football Club – anyone and everyone who has shown such warmth and kindness towards us at such a difficult time. We’ll be forever grateful."
They described Connor as a real "people person" with a burning work ethic, who loved his job as a receptionist at the Happy House Surgery.
The former Farringdon Community Academy student was also a keen sportsman, boxing with Plains Farm Amateur Boxing Club, and enjoyed going to the gym and hanging out with friends.
"As parents, you always want to do best by your children," they added. "Connor was somebody who always had his heart in the right place. He was kind, respectful and had so much love to give.
WATCH: Balloon release held in tribute to Connor Brown"He never asked for anything. He always had a real work ethic to achieve and do things the right way. He was out working aged 13 – delivering the Echo on his paper round – and then he’d treat himself and spend whatever he had earned on a few nice things.
"His smile was infectious. Everybody who knew Connor knew that smile – and every time he was out or was photographed he’d have that big grin on his face, a smile that lit up a room.
"He was the life and soul of the group and had a fantastic group of friends who all loved his personality and everything he was.
"Words can’t describe what life will be like without him. He had so much to live for – and so much more to give.”
"Connor was so well-liked. He was the most wonderful young man – and we’ve been blown away by the number of people who’ve come forward to pay their respects,” his family added.
"He was one in a million. We are so proud of Connor and everything he was, but it’s devastating that he won’t have the chance to go on to achieve what we know he would have.
* Two men have been charged with murder following Connor’s death and are due to stand trial later this year.
Leighton Barrass, 20, of Hartside Square, and Ally Gordon, 19, of Polmuir Road, both Sunderland, are both charged with murder on February 24.
Gordon faces a separate charge of possession of a bladed article.
A provisional trial date has been set for July.